This morning’s post comes to us from our friend and partner in student success Dane Smith. Dane provides a great overview of  cradle to career initiatives underway across Minnesota and the role of Growth and Justice in their support. We wholeheartedly agree with Dane in saying – Let’s make 2014 a banner year for community and collaboration, cradle-to-career! 

Dane Smith

Dane Smith

Dear Student Success “Strivers”  in Greater Minnesota

At Growth & Justice we are on a mission to build a statewide movement for improving student success, based on a framework of total community collaboration and commitment, cradle-to-career strategies, and with a special  focus on rural and Greater Minnesota.  We have long been supporters of the national “Strive Together” model, like the one you are involved in now.

Here’s a key finding in a report we published more than two years ago: “Bolder and broader cradle-to-career strategies – comprehensive, data-driven plans that begin near birth and focus on improving measurable progress all the way to career readiness – show the most promise for success.”   (The Whole Towns report, focusing on rural and Greater Minnesota,  is also referenced and  hyperlinked below).

We enthusiastically support your own community’s pioneering cradle-to-career strategy. And as one of our state’s respected policy research-and-advocacy organizations (see our prosperity broadening mission here) , we will do everything we can to help you succeed, and to build  popular will and policy-maker support for this movement.

We know how busy you are, working on your own homegrown efforts, roadmaps and partnerships. And we don’t want to distract you from this task. We simply want to offer ourselves as a resource–to facilitate and promote your work–not to add to your workload. We are not officially administering or overseeing a Minnesota Strive Together network, although we have joined Strive Together and we are working with the national staff  in several ways. Our objective is to serve as an explainer, an expert partner, and a cheerleader for this model, and to keep all of our kindred spirits and efforts more connected and informed, and to serve your effort however we can. Certainly we can all learn from each others’ successes and setbacks as we join in this movement.

We’ll start with some information sharing and an overview of what we know:

  • Our best count is that there are five emerging Strive Together models in rural or Greater Minnesota,  in various stages of exploration or development.   They are, alphabetically:
    Austin: Austin Aspires
    (In Austin, Vision2020Austin is the sponsoring organization for Austin Aspires, which has a brand new name and is seeking an executive director.)
    Itasca County area: Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success
    Northfield:  Northfield Promise
    Red Wing:  Every Hand Joined
    St. Cloud: Partner for Student Success  
  • We specialize in persuasive commentary and we will be ramping up our effort to build visibility and statewide popular support for these “strivish’’ comprehensive student success models. We will be placing op-eds in Greater Minnesota news media, mainstream as well as on-line and new media. Here is our most recent opinion, published in the St. Cloud Times. We have written literally dozens of op-eds, blogs and other commentaries about the Strive model  over the last few years and have made numerous presentations advancing the strategy. We’re here to help as you do your own media and communications, and we’d be happy to come to your community to present or just meet and converse.
  • For background on our work, check out our website, including this Whole Towns report from 2012, documenting inspirational community student success efforts in Greater Minnesota. You might also find use for these five Growth & Justice Smart Investments in Minnesota Students policy briefs, which break out “what we know” about interventions that work, in five chronological segments, birth through age 3, and so on, through higher education and career launch.
  • The staff of the national Strive Together effort, headquartered in Cincinnati, has begun facilitating conference calls for rural and non-metro Strive communities, and we at Growth & Justice are an official member of their Rural Partnership Network. We attended the recent national Strive convention in Dallas, and made a point in blogs and commentaries about how Minnesota was emerging as a hotbed for Strive.

We won’t pretend to have all the answers and we know we can learn plenty from each of you as we champion the idea of the whole community developing the whole child and every student, the whole way. It’s a classic Minnesota thing, actually, and we’re excited to be part of lifting every child and student in our great state toward a more inclusive prosperity and a more productive workforce.

We are at your service.  Feel free to contact me or Maureen Ramirez, our policy and research director, as we press forward with this exciting movement in Minnesota. If there are people who need to be added to this send list, please let us know.

Let’s make 2014 a banner year for community and collaboration, cradle-to-career!

Dane Smith                 Maureen Ramirez
President                        Director of Policy & Research

Tel: 651.917.6037         Tel: 651.917.6037
Mobile: 651.675.6360     Mobile: 651.353.2387


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970 University Avenue Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55114


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